Research at Hendrix

James M. Jennings

Cynthia Cook Sandefur Odyssey Professor of Education and History

Ed.D., Vanderbilt University

Research interest: The Above the Line Project, testing the effectiveness of research-based instructional strategies in regular classroom settings in high-poverty, low-performing areas

A new body of research has emerged in the field of education regarding what is described as "turnaround" schools. Turnaround schools serve high-poverty, low-performing ("basic" and "below basic" standardized test results1) school populations, yet they have managed to "turn around" the majority of these students to achieve high academic performance ("proficient" and "advanced" standardized tests results) in 1-3 years.

The purpose of the Above the Line Project is to test the effectiveness of research-based instructional strategies in regular classroom settings involving high-poverty, low-performing areas in Arkansas. "The Lower Mississippi Delta region is one of the poorest areas in the United States."2 This research project will test the effectiveness of five strategies – (1) the design and implementation of bi-monthly curriculum modules based on assessment results; (2) the identification and monitoring of conduct and achievement goals that are linked to rewards; (3) the periodic assessment, through pre- and post-testing, of student performance; (4) instructional/leadership coaching; and (5) frequent communication with and involvement of parents. In addition to testing the effectiveness of these strategies, the project will be designed to monitor and assess its overall impact on classroom and school culture.

Three research questions will be examined. First, to what extent did the five project strategies have an impact on academic achievement, collectively? Second, what were the average gains for subpopulations of students such as African-American, Caucasian, and economically-disadvantaged students? Finally, which project strategies were perceived to be most beneficial by the parents, teachers, and principals? This is a three-year research project, and Hendrix students have been involved in each phase.

Above the Line project website

1 Standardized test results typically fall into four categories. They are, from the highest to the lowest, (1) Advanced, (2) Proficient, (3) Basic, and (4) Below Basic.

2 Housing Assistance Council. (2000) Improvement of Housing and Infrastructure Conditions in the Lower Mississippi Delta.